CHALLENGING THOUGHTS ON FAITH & PROOF
- “Jesus also showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs and unquestionable demonstrations, appearing to them over a period of forty days and talking to them about the things concerning the kingdom of God.” Acts 1:3 (AMP)
- “Let not your words at any time be uncertain. The Word of the living God is to be the foundation of our faith…Gather all the affirmatives and proofs that make the gospel the glad tidings of salvation to all who receive and believe on Christ as a personal Saviour.” Ellen White, Ev p. 187 Letter 65, 1905.
- “Faith must have adequate evidence, else it is mere superstition.” Dr. A.A. Hodge (Professor of systematic theology at Princeton in the 1800s)
“Prove it.” The challenge rings out across countless playgrounds and schools every day to see who is the strongest, fastest, best athlete, the top student and many other kinds of comparisons. The challenge continues into our adult experiences with more sophistication whether it is proving who is the best athlete/team in professional sports every year, who is the prettiest/most talented in beauty pageants, who is the best singer/cook/best at losing weight and many others in reality contest shows, who is the smartest in national game shows or IQ tests, who is the most successful in business, who can get their name on the Forbes m/billionaire list, what nation has top rankings in various areas and many others.
But what about our faith in God and our Christian/SDA worldview? Can we claim our faith in God is based on objective proof and is it important to do so? I strongly believe this one of the most crucial and foundational issues in our church now and that it is crucial for eternal life for many and to empower SDA members to boldly witness like the early church did, but also to resolve many issues that fracture and splinter relationships.
I also believe based on very strong evidence that the foundation of many conflicts in our world on many topics is basically this:
1) God, His prophets and apostles and Ellen White consistently reasoned for faith in God’s reality based on the strongest evidence, facts and objective proof and claimed it was valuable for eternal life but also this life.
“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8 NLT
2) Philosophies and deceptions in society that go against the Bible are all based on fallacies, lies and propaganda and we can demonstrate this with evidence according to court and academic standards even to those who don’t accept the Bible as God’s word. Propaganda is often used to put feelings into people’s minds and then they are told that to be true to themselves and authentic they have to follow these feelings. But they always end up causing harm to people’s lives. The Bible says:
“By making idols for themselves from their silver and gold, they have brought about their own destruction.” Hosea 8:4
In this article I will basically go through how the Old Testament, New Testament, Jews and Christians throughout most of history, and Ellen White boldly and consistently claimed that faith in God being real and His truths being of great value is based on objective proof with no presuppositions or assumptions of worldviews. Then I will trace through history how a convergence of fallacies and philosophical deceptions from the pagan Greeks, Catholics, Calvin, secular scientists and methodological naturalism in the 1800s and naive Christians in the 1900s that are based on presupposing and assuming what people (want to) believe regardless of evidence and truth resulted in a false concept of faith called presuppositional apologetics which amputated faith from its biblical foundation in proof.
In other articles on this site I have listed various kinds of proof that they said are strongest and evidence from history and science that they constitute proof now. Two of the most important proofs are on the indisputable proofs of the Resurrection as Luke put it here and how Jews and Christian pioneered nearly all major human rights in history here. These 2 alone, actually are enough to convince anyone who is open minded that the Bible is true and valuable to follow and has helped me convert atheists online to being Christian or helped Christians strengthen their faith and avoid falling out. But I will write other articles listing what God indicated are the strongest proofs and brief academic confirmations of them (***link will be put here later when that is done).
Millions of people throughout history say that they were attracted to Christianity by the love, kindness, warm heartedness of Christians. But they were also convinced to become strong and confident Christians because of its overwhelming evidence and foundation in truth and proof. Quite a few people, especially more educated ones, have become Christians mostly or solely because of the rational evidence and proof.
It is essential to have both aspects both are aspects of biblical faith. The ancient Hebrews said this about faith:
“The Hebrew root word of faith, aman/אֱמוּנָה, “means firm, something that is supported or secure. This word is used in Isaiah 22:23 for a nail that is fastened to a “secure” place…To have faith in Elohiym is not [just] knowing that Elohiym exists or knowing that he will act, rather it is that the one with emunah will act with firmness toward Elohiym’s will.”
Here are just a few examples of millions who came to belief in God because of evidence and proof and they have influenced many others to have strong faith in God.
“It was the evidence from science and history that prompted me to abandon my atheism and become a Christian” Lee Strobel, once a self-described militant atheist, journalist at the Chicago Tribune
“When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.” Frank Tippler, mathematical physicist, cosmologist, theologian, scientist.
“I now believe there is a God…I now think it [the evidence] does point to a creative Intelligence almost entirely because of the DNA investigations.” Anthony Flew (former leading atheist for ~50 years)
This article will summarize a few reasons that show that Jews and Christians claimed that faith was based on the most certain truth and proof for all of history, and some of the history of deceptions that makes many afraid to claim that our faith is based on proof (but a much longer and more detailed academic article will be finished in not too long).
In this article, I will show that throughout Jewish and Christian history, God, prophets and apostles testified that faith was based on certain truth and proof beyond any shadow of a doubt. This continued until a confluence of pagan Greek and secular philosophies that presupposed pagan or materialist views of the world influenced a few misguided Christians in the 1920s to go to the complete opposite extreme of the biblical claims and claim that faith was something we should presuppose and assume regardless of the evidence (or that we should only accept evidence that confirms our presupposition). But it’s crucial for us to return to the biblical and historical bold claim that faith is based on proof and also to teach people objective ways to determine truth and proof and then show them the strongest proofs for our belief.
Unfortunately, we can see the consequence of the disconnect between faith and proof many times in witnessing when we meet people who claim faith has no connection to evidence, facts, truth or proof. I have seen 100s if not 1000s of atheists (many of them former Christians and former SDAs) say this directly. And unfortunately many Christians, pastors and even theologians have naively said this in sermons, books and even official publications of our church, not realizing the consequences.
More like these are here (and countless books by leading scholars who were skeptical of God, but now believe based on evidence/proof have been written
The importance of this issue of the basis of faith became very clear to me some years ago when I began to first dialogue with atheists online. I was kind of shy in face to face interactions, and so facebook, youtube and others were great places to practice and build up my skills for online witnessing as well as real life encounters. From the very first, I met countless atheists who in stark contrast to the above said or quoted things like this (and sometimes much worse).
- Theism: A belief system based on the assumption of deities.
- Belief: Something one may consider to be true, but doesn’t actually know to be true no matter how convinced of that you are.
- “Faith: A firm, stoic, and sacred conviction which is both adopted and maintained independent of physical or logical evidence… Faith is a belief that is assumed without evidence and defended against all evidence to the contrary. If it requires faith, then it ain’t verifiable. Get it?… We’re commanded to believe whatever we’re told without question, reservation or reason, since neither evidence nor logic supports any of this. You can only believe it on faith. Thus gullibility is the sole criterion for redemption.”
- “Faith is what people believe in when they do not want to know the truth.” Nietzche:
- “faith is pretending to know what you don’t know” Boghossian
- “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” Twain
Many ex-Christians and many ex-SDAs were lead to give up faith because of claims like this (I’ll cite some in the section: “INCREDIBLE PROGRESS FOR SDAS, BUT SERIOUS CHALLENGES”).
Paul long ago said that if faith is not based on the certain truth of the resurrection it is useless and Christians are most to be pitied for being foolish:
“If Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave.” 1 Cor. 15:14-15 NLT
In contrast, as is explained below some, in the 1920s, some Christians invented the idea that we must presuppose our worldview, predetermine what it is before checking evidence and only acknowledge evidence that supports it. Presupposing one’s worldview is a textbook a priori fallacy, deciding what you want your conclusion to be, regardless of the evidence or reality. It’s just a way to follow emotions instead of truth.
Leading Christian scholars agree with Paul that if faith is presupposed instead of being based on the solid evidence, certain truth and proof (and these two concepts are completely diametrically opposed by their definitions), faith is irrational and fallacious. It is superstitious. This is 100% correct and it is extremely important for us to understand. Dr. William Craig says:
“As commonly understood, presuppositionalism is guilty of a logical howler: it commits the informal fallacy of petitio principii, or begging the question, for it advocates presupposing the truth of Christian theism in order to prove Christian theism.”1 Craig, Craig, “A Classical Apologist’s Response,” in Steven B. Cowan, ed., Five Views on Apologetics (Zondervan, 2000), p. 232.
Dr. Paul Copan, a leading Christian theologian/philosopher, says:
“I would also disagree with presuppositionalism at certain points. First, it engages in question-begging—-assuming what one wants to prove. It begins with the assumption that God exists, and then concludes that God exists. Such reasoning would get you an “F” in any logic class worthy of the name!…”
Copan, Paul. “Questioning Presuppositionalism.” March 12, 2012. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/questioning-presuppositionalism/
“The central insight of presuppositionalism is that theological rationalism is a false doctrine. We are not dependent on argument and evidence in order to believe rationally in God or even to know that he exists….Frame himself says that we are “forced to say, “god exists (presupposition), therefore God exists (conclusion),'” even though such reasoning is “clearly circular”. Five Views on Apologetics (Zondervan, 2000), p. 232.
“It is difficult to imagine how anyone could with a straight face think to show theism to be true by reasoning, “God exists. Therefore, God exists.”…A Christian theist himself will deny that question-begging arguments prove anything [on other topics]…What is…the most astonishing feature of Frame’s essay is that when he comes to presenting his “Sketch of an Apologetic,” he completely abandons presuppositionalism,…and launches into a straight evidentialist apologetic that would delight the heart of any theological rationalist!” Five Views on Apologetics (Zondervan, 2000), p. 233
Is God the author of irrationality? Does He ask us to be irrational? Of course not. Yet, countless atheists and former Christians who rejected Christianity were challenged with the question, well if you can presuppose Christianity, then Hindus can presuppose Hinduism, Buddhists can presuppose Buddhism, Voodoo believers can presuppose Voodoo. How in the world can you possibly know that your presupposition is true? And because many were never taught the biblical fact that faith is based on proof, and had no answer…many abandoned Christianity.
A vast amount of science is now showing that SDAs have the most incredible and life-saving truths to share with the world, on this earth, in addition to a solid hope for eternal life based on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which is one of the most proven facts of history. But to share these most effectively, rapidly and convincingly we need to reason like God and all inspired people in the Bible did, that faith is based on proof. Pascal put it this way in the Pensees:
“…we must begin by showing that religion is not contrary to reason; that it is venerable, to inspire respect for it; then we must make it lovable, to make good men hope it is true; finally, we must prove it is true.” Section 187, Pensees
Can the SDA denomination be the first Christian denomination in modern times to state boldly that our biblical faith and SDA worldview is based on proof? Could we be the first to put this kind of statement in our fundamental beliefs? This is so important that I believe we actually need a whole new fundamental belief emphasizing this (and there will be a link to a petition at the end on this that I hope you sign***).
Ellen White says:
“Human devices, human plans, and human counsels will be without power.” Letter 5, 1889
Showing the world that our church is a church of love, building a healthy community and showing concerned for the welfare of the oppressed and unjustly treated is crucial and these are some major aspects of what the early church did. Most will not take a religion without these seriously. But we need to also include a solid foundation in objective truth and proof to have a solid biblical foundation and to be most effective with seekers who want to know if God is real or not. Former atheists like Lee Strobel, J Wallace (a homicide detective and founder of Cold Case Christianity say it this way:
“We live in an increasingly skeptical and even hostile culture toward the Christian message, and apologetics, which is literally giving evidence for the faith, is increasingly important as a result,” Strobel told The Christian Post. “Apologetics gets people past their spiritual ‘sticking points…”https://www.christianpost.com/news/lee-strobel-unveils-new-center-for-evangelism-and-apologetics-it-can-make-great-progress-for-god.html
’“My good friend [author] J. Warner Wallace says, ‘Evangelism in the 21st century is spelled apologetics,’” Strobel said.
Unfortunately, when many Christians and SDAs are asked what is the basis of their faith, most are very hestitant/not confident or unable to claim their faith is based on overwhelming facts, truth and proof or to explain this with any details. And we lose many valuable opportunities to convince people of the most crucial truths on earth because of this.
I strongly believe with vast evidence that SDAs have the best foundation to boldly claim that based on what God has said and what scholars in many fields have found, our biblical faith and SDA worldview are based on the highest caliber of truth and proof that is possible for humans to have.
ACCURATE DEFINITIONS ARE CRUCIAL/DEFINING FAITH
First, we need to define faith. The original Hebrew and Greek languages sometimes have multiple meanings or deeper nuances than we see in English, but using words and terms correctly is very crucial. The Bible says:
“What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” Isaiah 5:20 (NLT)
Many modern experts in propaganda and media say that a common way to deceive people is to change the meaning of words. Edward Bernays, the father of American propaganda (he wrote a book with this title and the first pages are quite shocking), for example, led a campaign to increase smoking among women. He told some actresses to march in a parade, and then pull out cigarettes and say they were torches of freedom that made them equal to men. This was sensational and many newspapers carried the story. Smoking among women sky rocketed. But it was a false freedom. The only equality that it achieved was more equal death rates to men. This propaganda tactic of changing word meanings is called reframing and it’s an old tactic. Ramses changed the names on various Egyptian monuments to make it look like he built them instead of other kings. An ancient Chinese proverb warns us about the importance of accurate words saying:
“If names cannot be correct, then language is not in accordance with the truth of things. And if language is not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success” Chinese proverb (名不正，则言不顺；言不顺，则事不成 míng bùzhèng, zé yán bù shùn; yán bù shùn, zé shì bùchéng)
Experts in propaganda talk about how deceivers and tyrants in many countries often try to reframe various words. One of the most frequent examples is that they try to tell their citizens that they are the freest nation on earth and people in other nations are exploited, slaves and it would be madness to want to live anywhere else or similar things. As SDAs we understand the importance of using correct terminology especially well in the area of the Sabbath doctrine, since many have falsely called Sunday the Sabbath, a tactic that has confused many well-meaning people and undermined belief in the truth Biblical Sabbath, Saturday.
TYPES OF FAITH
Scholars say that are at least 5 kinds of love in the Bible in Greek (phileo/brotherly love, eros/sexual love, agape/unselfish love, etc.). Similarly, there are several kinds of faith in the Bible.
1) FAITH IN GOD’S EXISTENCE: There is faith that God really exists, created the universe, lived on earth in the person of Jesus, the Messiah God, etc. This kind of faith is based on the strongest evidence and proof. (Acts 1:3, 2 Peter 1:16-18)
2) DEMONIC “BELIEF/FAITH”: The demons believe in God and tremble, but don’t love or obey Him (James 2:19).
3) DEAD FAITH: There is dead faith disconnected from works and does not change lives that won’t save anyone (James 2:17).
4) FAITH IN SALVATION: Faith that trusts God’s promise to cover our sins with Jesus’ sacrifice & allow Jesus robe of righteousness to represent us in front of God as our advocate (Acts 10:43, 1 John 2:1).
5) EMPOWERING FAITH: This is the crucial faith that God will help us to overcome addictions, destructive habits, dysfunctional thinking, abusive & dehumanizing behaviors, etc. (Acts 26:18)
6) FAITH IN OBEDIENCE: The Bible speaks repeatedly of “faithful obedience” in different ways. This is faith that trusts that following God’s principles with God’s power will bring the results He has promised, eternal life as well as benefits on earth. (Deuteronomy 7:12 1 Kings 8:61 2 Kings 18:6, Hebrews 11:8 and most of Hebrews 11) Revelation 14:12. Jesus says that truth sets us free (John 8:32), that following God’s health principles will help us avoid disease (Ex. 15:26), that it is righteousness/justice that makes nations great (Prov. 14:34).
7) FAITH IN ETERNAL LIFE/HEAVEN: Hebrews 11:1 says that faith can be the evidence of things we cannot see. We cannot see eternal life/heaven, but we believe in it because we trust Jesus who we do know and trust in based on proof and what He has told us. The faith that grows in us through this relationship with Jesus is itself an evidence that heaven is a real place.
We will focus our attention on faith in God’s existence and how throughout biblical and most of Christian history, God and godly inspired people stated that this is based on proof.
GOD AND GODLY PEOPLE IN THE BIBLE CLAIMED THAT FAITH IS BASED ON PROOF
God in the Bible consistently said that faith in His existence is based on certain truth and proof. For example,
“The people surrounded him and asked, “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.” John 10:24-5
Luke, a well educated doctor, said,
“Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.” Luke 1:3,4 NLT
He also said:
“Jesus also showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs and unquestionable demonstrations…” Acts 1:3 (AMP).
Paul said that faith is useless and a lie if not based on certain truth:
“If Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave.” 1 Cor. 15:14-15 NLT
Peter said we should reason for faith based on proof.
“Always be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15
The Greek word there is ἀπολογία and means a logical reason such as can be given in court to prove a claim. “Greek philosophers Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle described apologia as an oratory to defend positions or actions particularly in the sense of a legal defense.”
Godly Hebrews and their dictionaries defined faith as being solid, trustworthy, credible, truth, forensic proof, etc. and also involving action as an inevitable result of believing truth.
“The Hebrew root word of faith, aman/אֱמוּנָה, “means firm, something that is supported or secure. This word is used in Isaiah 22:23 for a nail that is fastened to a “secure” place…
When the Hebrew word emunah is translated as “faith,” as it often is, misconceptions of its meaning occur. Faith is usually perceived as a knowing while the Hebrew emunah is a firm action. To have faith in Elohiym is not [just] knowing that Elohiym exists or knowing that he will act, rather it is that the one with emunah will act with firmness toward Elohiym’s will.”
(see also: http://internetbiblecollege.net/lessons/hebrew%20words%20for%20faith.htm)
Many statements in the New Testament “clearly demonstrate that the use of evidence in concert with valid reasoning is the correct process in coming to a knowledge of divine truth. When the newly-converted Saul of Tarsus began to proclaim Christ as Lord, to the Jewish population of Damascus, he “confounded” them by “proving” (sumbibazo — “to bring together,” i.e., “to demonstrate”) that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 9:22; see Thayer 1958, 596).
When the citizens of Berea were exposed to the message of Jesus, they were characterized by a certain nobility, because they took the facts preached by Paul and his companions, and they “examined” (anakrino) them to determine whether or not they were true. The verb signifies “exact research as in legal processes” (Robertson 1930, 275).”
GOD THROUGH ELLEN WHITE CLAIMED THAT
FAITH IS BASED ON PROOF
Ellen White many times said that faith is based on truth, proof, sufficient evidence (a synonym of proof), etc. She said for example that:
“God never asks us to believe, without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His word, are all established by [abundant] testimony that appeals to our reason…” Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 105. (note: the definition of proof is “sufficient evidence”)
“There are many who believe without a reason on which to base their faith, without sufficient evidence as to the truth of the matter. . . . They do not reason from cause to effect. Their faith has not genuine foundation, and in the time of trial they will find that they have built upon sand.” Ellen White Mind, Character, and Personality 2 p. 535-536.
“The miracles of Jesus are a proof of his divinity; but the strongest proofs that he is the world’s Redeemer are found in the prophecies of the Old Testament compared with the history of the New.” 3 SP p.211
“truth presented in an easy style, backed up with a few strong proofs, is better than to…bring forth an overwhelming array of evidence.” CW p. 83.
She listed at least 10 major lines of evidence that constitute proof of our faith in God’s reality, love, mercy, laws, justice and hope for eternal life.
CHRISTIAN SCHOLARS SAY THAT FAITH IS BASED ON PROOF
Dr. R. C. Sproul, a leading theologian/professor has a very intellectual and philosophical seminar explaining how Christianity is based on proof. He summarized how most informed Christians after Jesus for most of history reasoned for faith in God:
“[Classicist Christian scholars] argue that proof for the existence of God is conclusive…It is actual proof… That’s a very burdensome thing to claim…But, I do think the classical school achieves that goal of compelling proof.”
Dr. John Lennox, a mathematician from Oxford said,
“The word proof has two meanings. There’s the rigorous meaning in maths that is very difficult to do and rare. But then there’s the other meaning – beyond reasonable doubt”. That’s the kind of ‘proof’ we can present: arguments to bring someone beyond reasonable doubt. For example, rational arguments such as those from philosophers Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig, the personal experience of Christians, and the witness of the gospel accounts in the Bible.”
Tomlinson, Heather. “Ten quick responses to atheist claims.” Oct. 8, 2014, https://www.christiantoday.com/article/ten.quick.responses.to.atheist.claims/41439.htm
This quote from Dr. John Lennox, who often speaks in defense of Biblical faith with many kinds of solid evidence, is one good summary of the biblical view of faith.
I would define faith this way:
“Faith divorced from facts is unbiblical pseudofaith, causes ignorance, impedes progress in communities/civilizations, and harms human lives. ALL presuppositions, materialistic or theistic destroy rational thought and almost all possibility of change.” Bryan Bissell
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR FAITH TO BE BASED ON PROOF?
In stark contrast to the way of reasoning that faith is based on certain truth and proof that God and godly people throughout history used almost exclusively until the 1900s, there is another way of thinking. It is to presuppose your conclusions or what you think is right before checking evidence or in spite of the weight of contrary evidence that points to a different conclusion. Why does it matter if we choose one or the other? Because it has very destructive consequences.
A) Testifying that our faith and Christian/SDA worldview is based on proof is one of the most crucial things to enable bold witnessing for Christ.
B) Presupposing our views is a textbook case of false reasoning called an a priori fallacy, and it has become very common in many secular and Christian circles.
C) History shows that presupposing our conclusions faith kind of thinking has no basis in the Bible or in objective and fair truth seeking, but with those that war against God, truth and what is best for humanity, especially oppressors.
D) If you can presuppose your entire worldview and ignore contrary evidence, then no one has any proof. It’s impossible to decide which worldview is true since people from other worldviews can presuppose their worldview just as easily as you can presuppose yours. It’s difficult or impossible to change people from denominations. In dialogues you can share large amounts of evidence that would legitimately constitute proof and people can just handwave it all away or laugh and continue with the same views they had before.
E) In politics it can lead people to calling any evidence or facts they disagree with fake news.
F) In marriages, families, friendships as well as in relations between nations, people can just dismiss needs others say are very important to them…and this can lead to deep hurt, destroyed relationships or even violence.
G) In spiritual areas, people who don’t have strong proof basis for their views will easily accept false doctrines or even reject faith in God and lose their eternal lives.
H) Presupposing our conclusions regardless of the weight of evidence is anathema to genuine truth seeking. Critics will rightly expose us as having an irrational foundation if we succumb to this.
I) If people presuppose their views, there is no common ground to persuade others to change. This breaks down unity in every sphere of life and cripples the work we want to do for God in many ways.
J) If we just presuppose our faith and worldview, this eventually influences people to presuppose that they are right in marriages, churches, to presuppose their economics, to presuppose their politics, and in every other sphere, regardless of where the majority of evidence and truth point.
Presupposing the answers we want for emotional reasons is the worst possible opposite of following truth. Because truth is the foundation of freedom as Jesus said (John 8:32), this practice ends up breaking down freedom of all types and eventually causes the collapse of civilizations, esp. in combination with greed and pride (similar to what 2 Tim. 3:1-5 says). Yale professor Sean Illing says.
“Truth is required to act freely. Freedom requires knowledge, and in order to act freely in the world, you need to know what the world is and know what you’re doing. You only know what you’re doing if you have access to the truth. So freedom requires truth, and so to smash freedom you must smash truth.”
Presuppositional thinking has at least 12 destructive/devastating consequences like this (see this article for more details***).
INCREDIBLE PROGRESS FOR SDAS, BUT SERIOUS CHALLENGES
SDAs have the most valuable truths on earth, both for eternal life and this life as many thousands of scientific studies are proving. This is one reason why some studies have shown that Adventists are the fastest growing denomination in America, esp. due to our unique Bible truths that are so beneficial for lives.
 MacDonald, G. Jeffrey. “Adventists’ back-to-basics faith is fastest growing U.S. church.” March 17, 2011. https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/2011-03-18-Adventists_17_ST_N.htm.
That’s great and let’s keep growing as fast as we can! But Dr. Trim recently reported that ~9.6 million young people and 15 million people overall have left SDA in recent decades (His research is summarized here: https://arlingtonadventist.com/new-blog/2019/10/27/a-change-in-the-weather). What could we do with 15 million more members, or even 10 million? Wouldn’t they be extremely helpful in finishing God’s commission? He listed the top 6 reasons why people have left:
- Perceived hypocrisy in other church members
- Marital difficulties
- Lack of friends in the church
- High level of conflict in local church
- Other family conflicts
- Personal conflicts with local church
I don’t doubt at all that people claimed these are
the reasons and that some of them are completely valid. But I would suggest
there are others, a couple that are even more serious. Many experts in
psychology, media and propaganda have said that many people don’t understand
their deeper motivations (and even boast that corporations can manipulate
people’s thoughts, especially if they don’t know the Bible well). But from talking
with hundreds of ex-SDAs, I would say these are very serious, possibly even the
most serious reasons why they leave Christianity. There are some real quotes I
have heard and there are at least 1000s who say similar things:
A) Many ex-SDAs and ex-Christians have eventually admitted that they had a fear of never being able to have eternal life. If you aren’t sure of eternal life, what is the point of spending major amounts of time and money on church? Many conclude that they better get all the fun and fantasies they want to do here on earth in the life they are sure of without the restrictions of Christianity. One ex-SDA opened up about the reason he left.
“I went wild in high school. I figured I was going to hell because I couldn’t keep the commandments so I said the hell with it…I left the church…” S.
B) They don’t have a solid objective way to distinguish truth from error. I have experienced numerous times that a skeptic or ex-SDA would use all sorts of fallacies to dismiss evidence.
“No evidence can point to God or the supernatural…our senses can’t detect that.” Dave R., atheist.
A former missionary child of SDAs left the church and explained:
“Despite a loving Christian indoctrination, I came to realize that when beliefs and evidence are in contradiction, personal honesty requires imposing the evidence on one’s beliefs, and not the reverse….” Doug Matheson
Struggles with the Why behind Difficult Questions Jun 19, 2018 https://medium.com/@dougmatheson/struggles-with-the-why-behind-difficult-questions-727d5e816126
His tag line at the bottom of his article is:
“A one-time missionary kid in India, trained in Christian schools, but realized that when beliefs and evidence are in contradiction, the evidence should win out.”
C) Many don’t know that faith is based on proof and they will say things about how when there is a conflict between faith and evidence/truth, the evidence should win out. They aren’t sure God is real (because they haven’t seen Him personally, etc.)
“I thought…actually still think…that the definition of faith is the belief in something [even] in the complete absence of proof.” Steve S., atheist.
“If you have faith, why would you need evidence.” Dr. Richard Dawkins at Oxford (Dr. John Lennox, also at Oxford and a Christian, brilliantly debunks Dawkins arguments in “The Dawkins’ Delusion).
D) Many have gone through some very serious pain or abuse and don’t understand why a God of love would allow this. In many cases, eventually it would come out that the person’s child had cancer, or she had experienced injustice or abuse or deep pain of some kind and this is the reason they would not follow the vast evidence.
dislike God so very much because of what He is. Take Job. God did abominable
things to that man just because He could. It is written in the book that he
destroyed Job FOR NO REASON…my children took up where my abusive husband left
off… I am just so sick of scum who commit crimes without a second thought…I
am just looking forward to blinking out of existence. I don’t want to live
forever under oppression.” J
“[After I cited a vast amount of evidence for God, one man said] “If there is a God, I hate Him. How could He sit and do nothing while my son suffers terribly with the scourge of MS.”
I would argue that these are far deeper reasons why people actually leave Christianity
But I also quite a number of very faithful SDAs around the world who have had to be members of less than ideal SDA churches (as I have at times) and who experienced several of the above problems, but did not give up their faith. For example, one friend who has gone through a lot of terrible abuse and hell and court cases told me:
“You know Bryan, I’ve been in this church for 10 years and I still don’t have even one close friend that I can really trust. I asked for some financial assistance when through a severe crises, but no one was able or willing to help. But I know that God is real and His word is truth. So through it all, my faith is strong.” R.
If people have strong convictions that God’s word is true and understand the value of eternal life and the value of God’s truths that history and science show, and they realize that all sin is slavery (Romans 6:16), which much science, psychology and economics is showing, none of the 6 reasons listed will sway most of these people from biblical faith. They will be able to stand strong through it like my friend R.
PAGAN GREEK PHILOSOPHER ORIGINS OF PRESUPPOSITIONAL THINKING
This is a brief overview of the history of the origin of presupposing what we want to be true for emotional, rather than evidential reasons and the sinister ungodly sources it originated from.
Some of the major pagan Greek philosophers like Thales, Anaxagoras and especially Democritus pioneered presupposing materialism and rejecting supernatural explanations. They were called “the physikoi” (from the Greek φυσικός or physikos, meaning “natural philosopher”) because they investigated natural causes, often excluding any role for gods in the creation or operation of the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysical_naturalism
(***updates coming to this part***) Several argued that there is no contact between
A) our minds and the world we live in and
B) God/the supernatural.
If we accept these arguments, then there can be no evidence or proof of God. and man is the determiner of what is true, esp. those who are powerful and extremely wealthy.
GREEK INFLUENCE ON THE JEWS #1
The pagan culture of the Greeks permeated much of the ancient world and it was a very sophisticated deception that godly Jews had to vigorously oppose. Hannukah is a celebration that the Jews keep as one way to make Jews aware of the the deceptions of the pagan Greek culture, and to highlight heroes that opposed these deceptions, both at the physical level in the wars of the Maccabees, but also at the philosophical and spiritual level, through the efforts of many rabbis to oppose false Greek philosophies. These rabbis explain the danger they saw and fought hard against.
“At the time of the Hanukkah story, the enlightening Hellenistic culture was spreading throughout civilization. It influenced a large percentage of the Jewish population, and led them to forsake their faith for “rationalism”, exchanging the supernatural for the natural and the spiritual for the physical. The story of Hanukkah is not only about a physical revolt of the Jews against the Greek oppressors; it is the story of the revolt of faith from the place it was assigned as the domain of the gullible and uneducated.”
In “The Mudswamps of Hella” rabbi Lubavitcher Rebbe quotes a Bible verse, but gives a deeper meaning:
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2
“Yavan, the Hebrew word for the Hellenic culture, means mud (as in Psalms 40:2). The Hellenic reformers did more than entice and coerce the people of Israel to embrace the body-worship of Greece—they also sought to indoctrinate them with a philosophy that exalted the physical and made its worship a virtue and an ideal… The Greek was no mere materialist, but one who kneaded his earthiest wants with the subliminal waters of his intellect to form a mucilage that fastened on the soul and drew it, inch by inch and limb by limb, into the quagmire of Yavan…
The deadliness of the mudswamp is further illustrated by the very form of the Hebrew word Yavan, ( יון ) whose three letters are three lines, each descending an increment lower than its predecessor.
Unlike water, in which one might sink swiftly to the bottom but can also, equally swiftly, pull himself out, the mud of Yavan works slowly, drawing the person down bit by bit, step by step. At first, it only demands a slight, barely discernible departure from ones convictions and morals.
But its downward pull is steady and all but irreversible—indeed, all efforts to extract oneself by the means of ones conventional faculties are doomed to failure—except by the extremely potent power of faith, as explained in the text.https://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/article_cdo/aid/2683/jewish/The-Mudswamps-of-Hella.htm
GREEK INFLUENCE ON THE JEWS #2
Pagan Greek philosophy (esp. the law of non-contradiction) influenced the Jews to think of the Messiah as only a conquering king, dismissing many Bible predictions that he would suffer and be killed. This caused them to reject Jesus as the Messiah when he came.
Could other pagan Greek philosophical deceptions, including presupposing our “truth”, materialism, Darwinism, hedonism and many others that are rife in Hollywood and western culture, be causing people to reject crucial truths of God today as well? I believe so.
EARLY CHURCH FATHERS’ ORIGINS OF PRESUPPOSITIONAL THINKING
Some early church fathers unfortunately baptized various elements of pagan Greek philosophy into the church. And presuppositional thinking was one of them. Irenaeus of Lyon as well as Anthanasius and Gregory of Nyssa’s taught Orthodox Presuppositional Apologetics, or Neopatristic Presuppositionalism. https://www.amazon.com/Irenaeus-Orthodox-Apologetic-Methodology-Presuppositionalism/dp/1545576564
CATHOLICS ORIGINS OF PRESUPPOSITIONAL THINKING
Catholics often claim that their views are based on evidence, esp. historical evidence. There were a few Catholic leaders who advocated presuppositional thinking, but in general most did not.
However, in practice, the Catholic church used harmful presuppositional thinking it a lot. For example, the Catholic church’s claims that the church and it’s traditions are above the Bible claims, replacing Sunday with the Sabbath, that Peter was the first pope, that Jesus meant the Catholic church was the rock on which Jesus would build his church, that the pope is infallible (in certain contexts), and other doctrines are mostly or totally presupposed with little or no evidence. In pretty much every doctrine they have that is against the Bible, they used presuppositional reasoning of some type.
CALVIN AND PREDESTINATION
Calvin pioneered the idea that God decides whether people will go to heaven or hell before they are even born, which means it is without evidence. This is a particularly cruel form of presuppositionalism, one in which all evidence from our choices are irrelevant to our eternal destiny.
The pagan idea of presupposing that materialist answers are the only conclusions allowed evolved into something called “methodological naturalism” and came to permeate first secular science in the 1800s, but eventually a lot of Christian scientists were deceived into accepting it as well. This is another deception that tries to amputate faith from evidence, facts and proof.
The Bible specifically predicted that there would be willful denial of facts and truth by both believers and nonbelievers.
- “Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires…2 Peter 3:3, 5,6,7
- “They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. 2 Tim. 3:4:5
- “He [the lawless one] will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. 2 Thessalonians 2:10
Methodological naturalism is one very direct 100% fulfillment of this prediction of willful denial of truth about creation and the flood predicted by God. And presuppositional apologetics is very dangerous too, because it makes people unable to change their traditions to accept new and valuable truths from God. They usually just stay stuck with what they learned growing up or what people they admire say or what their family and friends believe. It’s comfortable, but not truth. And we have to change this foundation if we want more people to accept the biblical truths we SDAs have been given.
Methodological naturalism is the key big war that is the root foundation of many conflicts in the world, yet most atheists, skeptics and Christians are ignorant of it even though it is foundational cause of a whole lot of evil, abuse, waste and destruction in the modern world as well as the cause of millions of deaths every single year as evidence from scientific research shows. By its very definition, methodological naturalism is an a priori fallacy and that means it is a complete rejection of the objective principles of truth seeking. That is also similarly true of presuppositional apologetics which completely denies how faith in the Bible was used, as a conclusion of the vast majority of facts, evidence and proof. For 1000s of years, the biblical way to convince people of biblical faith was to show that it had more overall evidence than any other rivals. The Bible forbids making conclusions before checking evidence as gullible (prov. 14:15) and presupposing your views are right as wicked madness (Eccl. 10:13).That means that the biblical concept of faith was basically equivalent to truth, following the weight of evidence wherever it leads.
Richard Dawkins, during an interview about his book, The God Delusion (which has been rebutted brilliantly by Dr. Lennox in his book, the Dawkins Delusion), made the real issue clear:
“[T]he big war is not between evolution and creationism, but between naturalism and supernaturalism.”
Many secular scientists like Kansas State University immunologist Scott Todd have openly admitted using this a priori fallacy that contradicts how science worked for 1000s of years, following the evidence wherever it leads.
“Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.”
Another example of distorted “science” is this:
“Science is an attempt to explain the natural world in terms of natural processes, not supernatural ones. This principle is sometimes referred to as methodological naturalism.” Eugenie Scott, former head of National Center for Science Education
Dr. Lewontin writes that science does not require methodological naturalism.
“It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to…produce material explanations…that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” Richard Lewontin “The New York Review”, “Billions and billions of demons”, January 9, 1997, p. 31***
Dr. Bradley Monton, an atheist philosopher with a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton points out that if we impose methodological naturalism on science, then science won’t be about finding truth, just confirming a priori biases.
“If science really is permanently committed to methodological naturalism,…the aim of science is not generating true theories…I maintain that science is better off without being shackled by methodological naturalism.”***
Dr. Kurt Wise, a Christian creationist who did a Ph.D. in paleontology and MA in geology at Harvard University says:
“The philosophical foundations of biology, as presented in [secular] textbooks, are fundamentally naturalistic in nature. The nature of reality, the nature and value of truth, the purpose of science, the nature of science, the definition of biology, the history of biology, the definition of species, the definition of higher taxa, the purpose of biosystematics, the biosystematic method(s)— all these things and many more are generated from a naturalistic perspective…Everything in biology is different in a biblical worldview. Perspectives on how life began, what life is, what life is for, and where life is going are all different, as are perspectives on how humanity began, where it is going, why it is here, and what its responsibilities are to the rest of the world.”
If we don’t educate SDAs members, pastors, educators, missionaries to understand the materialistic fallacy of methodological naturalism that undergirds almost every modern deception, SDAs (and genuine non-believing seekers) will NOT be able to distinguish between true science and false science in any objective way, nor able to explain that their faith is grounded on truth and proof as God, prophets and apostles did.
This could not be a more serious issue because it results in real cases like this of an SDA growing up in a missionary family, but then because of not understanding how to reason objectively based on truth and proof, confusing true and false science and leaving our church. He said:
“Despite a loving Christian indoctrination, I came to realize that when beliefs and evidence are in contradiction, personal honesty requires imposing the evidence on one’s beliefs, and not the reverse...” Doug M
This concept of methodological naturalism is the root of almost every secular deception that exists today from Darwinism to Freudian psychology to materialistic economics to chemical agricultural industries to materialist theology that denies the supernatural and many others. All of these ignore the ideal way God created this world to function best. And they do harm to millions of lives every year.
In the 1800s, secular and some Christian scientists and expanded the presuppositional fallacy of methodological naturalism to the field of science and said scientific facts can never be evidence for God and no supernatural ideas have any value in science.
***Kant and Hume for example denied that our senses and experiences are valid ways to determine truth and that any senses can be evidence for God. If our senses aren’t evidence and aren’t valid to find truth, then there is no way to figure out truth objectively, since our senses are the way God created for us to gather information about reality. See more on this here:
Cornelius Van Til reversed methodological naturalism and said we must presuppose God and faith based on many of the strains of thinking above. This is called presuppositional apologetics. This has influenced multitudes of Christian pastors, leaders and thinkers to wrongly claim that faith is presupposed. There are also some leading SDA pastors and intellectuals, esp. those who have gotten their education from secular or non-SDA schools, to claim that we have to presuppose our worldview, against vast evidence of many kinds.
But where did Van Til come up with this idea? Research is showing that it came from many strains of pagan, anti-Christian or unbiblical influences like the above, esp. Calvin and idealist philosophy like that of Kant and Hume.
“Cornelius Van Til taught apologetics for one year at Princeton Theological Seminary, and then for the rest of his career at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He advocated a new approach in apologetics which has come to be known as “presuppositional apologetics.” Presuppositionalism has been controversial within evangelical and Reformed circles, and has been viewed as a radical departure from the Old Princeton evidentialist approach, by both its supporters and detractors.“The historical origins of the presuppositional apologetics of Cornelius Van Til”
Van Til’s presuppositional apologetics is a twentieth century Reformed response to the post-Kantian philosophical focus on epistemology…He frequently referred to Calvin, especially Book I of the Institutes and a treatise on predestination. His doctoral studies were in early twentieth century British idealism…Presuppositionalism is largely an attempt to work out in apologetics the tension between Kuyper’s notions of common grace and the antithesis…”Common grace” allowed him to appreciate the insights of non-Christian philosophers.”
SIN ORIGINATED WITH LUCIFER FROM PRESUPPOSITIONAL THINKING
You can disagree, but I believe the evidence shows that from the beginning of his rebellion against God, Lucifer argued for his views by presupposing them for reasons of emotion and pride. Why? All the evidence and proof was on the side of God in the form of a phenomenal universe that all knew was created by God and which was full of God’s love and glory.
Lucifer ignored all the available evidence and argued with fallacies that his way was better than God’s way. The rest is tragic history. This presupposition and rejection of available evidence is likely one reason why Ellen White said,
“It is impossible to explain the origin of sin so as to give a reason for its existence.” Great Controversy p. 492.
Atheists repeatedly claim faith has no evidence and therefore there is no reason to believe it is true or proven fact or to risk anything on faith. It is true that many false philosophies/worldviews/religions presuppose they are true, some of which are described above. But when they allege this about the Bible, they are setting up a fixed playing field that has no basis in biblical fact or historical fact because biblical faith is based on proof.
If we do not challenge this foundational falsehood of atheism, it will be exceedingly difficult for SDAs to have bold witnesses for true faith and finish the work God has given us.
A huge reason that many SDAs have major problems in persuading others of the most crucial truths is because they do not know enough to challenge this concept of a priori fallacies, presupposing worldviews.
If people presuppose their worldview, instead of reasoning based on proof, then people will rarely change.
If people presuppose their denomination is correct/true, it is almost impossible to influence them to change their denomination.
If people presuppose their doctrines inside a denomination, it’s very difficult to influence them to change their doctrines.
If our faith is not based on proof, we can not claim it is certain truth as Luke did (Luke 1:1-4). Then we will have a very hard time convincing others that the SDA worldview is true.
If the Bible and SDA are true, and we can’t show that truth, then it will also destroy much freedom as Jesus said (John 8:32). Yale professor Dr. Sean Illing says when truth is destroyed, faith is smashed.
“Truth is required to act freely. Freedom requires knowledge, and in order to act freely in the world, you need to know what the world is and know what you’re doing. You only know what you’re doing if you have access to the truth. So freedom requires truth, and so to smash freedom you must smash truth.”
That’s what we are seeing in many areas of our world now. People who just follow greed, pride, selfishness and other emotions as 2 Timothy 3:1-5 predicted. This causes them and those they influence to lose many kinds of freedom. This also affects, politics, education, marriage and many other relationships.
That reminds me of something said 1000s of years ago, by another Man, Jesus, the Messiah:
“the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
Trust what Jesus says above all else and know that your faith in God is based on proof and sets us free in many ways!
 Sproul, R.C. “Defending Your Faith” Seminar, “15. The Case for God”.
(The audio for this part available here for free: https://www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?sourceonly=true&currSection=sermonssource&keyword=ligonier&subsetcat=series&subsetitem=Defending+Your+Faith)
 “The Church of the Non-Believers”. Gary Wolf. Wired. November 2006. p. 186.
 Todd, S.C., correspondence to Nature 401(6752):423, 30 Sept. 1999.
 Wise, K.P., J.W. Francis, N.A. Doran, A.J. Fabich, S. Hartz, and T. Hennigan. “Devotional Biology: A young-age creationist, college-level, conceptual biology textbook.” 2018. Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, ed. J.H. Whitmore, pp. 255-267**. creationicc.org/2018_papers/26%20Wise%20et%20al%20Devotional%20Biology%20final.pdf